Considering Online Education FAQs

What is an online course?

An online course utilizes the Internet and a web browser as a means of creating a learning environment outside of the traditional classroom. You will be able to access your course lectures (for the most part, text based with some courses utilizing audio and video) and communicate with your classmates and instructors through the use of a discussion forum (message board). The online courses follow a classroom structure of covering a lesson a week. You can access your course Web site anytime of the day and anywhere you have access to the Internet (dependent on security settings).

Who can take online courses?

Anyone can take an online course as long as they have access to a computer with Internet capabilities, have an active email account and have a good understanding of how a computer works. An online student also has to be motivated to participate in discussion forums and regularly check the Web site and keep up with the course work.

How do online courses work?

Once you begin your course work, you will find that through the use of the course site tools, you will be able to navigate within the course site. You will be able to maneuver through the Web site to post/read assignments and to download/upload files from your instructor. Your instructor will primarily be contacting you through the discussion forum or by email.

Can I access my course from anywhere?

You can access the course anywhere that you have Internet access. Some companies have firewalls that prevent you from participating in the chat sessions and posting to the discussion forum. Please check with your company's technology department before you attempt to access the course.

Are there specific times that I need to log into the Web site?

There is a set beginning and end date for your online course. It is suggested that you log on at least 3-4 times a week to check the discussion forums and read assignments and lectures. This is the "asynchronous" aspect of the course.

There might be occasion when the instructor will set a chat time or WebEx session ("synchronous") where he/she assigns a specific date and time for all the students to meet online.

How many hours a week do I have to devote to my online course?

Similar to a classroom course, to get the most out of any type of learning you must commit a certain amount of time. You will most likely spend approximately 10 hours a week going over class lectures, assignments and discussion forums. Time required for each course will vary.

All assignments, quizzes, exams, and projects must be completed by the end date of the course (please refer to University Extension Web site/catalog for course start/end dates). The instructor will set individual due dates for your assignments, projects and tests.

Why should I consider taking an online course?

SSU Online provides students with the opportunity to take the same classes offered on campus in an online format. To meet the needs of students who cannot attend a SSU campus, many distance education courses may be completed at home, while stationed abroad, or while traveling.

Benefits of distance education

The advantages of studying by distance education allow you to:
•change or enhance your career prospects wherever you are - rural, metropolitan or overseas
•fit study around work, social or family commitments. You can even study at home in your PJs!
•vary your study load to suit your schedule - full-time or part-time distance study is available with many SSU degrees
•develop and demonstrate your autonomy through self-motivation and self-direction of your degree
•be included in university life through contact with other students through SSU's online learning environment and through direct contact with your lecturers via the discussions, email or by phone
•have time to review your study materials without having to rush off to the next class.

As a distance education student, you:
•can study wherever, whenever and whatever you want. It's your choice
•don't have to worry about being at lectures and tutorials at times that may not fit in with your lifestyle
•have the convenience of course materials being delivered to your home or office
•usually study two subjects per session, with each subject needing around 8 - 10 hours of study per week
•have both full-time and part-time study options often available so you can vary your study load to fit in with your schedule - from one subject per session to four or five.

How do I know if I'm ready to take an online course?

Not all learning styles suit all adults. Those students who are typically most successful at online course work are self-motivated and comfortable using a computer. If you do not mind being physically separated from other students and find your busy schedule makes it impossible to attend a traditional classroom setting, then online learning might be just right for you. Complete a self-assessment to discover if online learning is right for you.

Distance education presents its own unique advantages:

  • Flexibility for those with families, jobs, or other time commitments
  • Convenience of being able to work anywhere, anytime
  • You will build more personal accountability for your work
  • You will have access to and learn new technology

But, distance education also brings a new set of challenges to overcome:

  • Distraction comes easily and you might lose track of coursework
  • You will need to provide a reliable working environment, including a computer and access to Internet.

Before signing up for an online course or program, consider this:

  • Check requirements before applying for a course or program; online courses often have specific technical needs and prerequisites
  • Be aware of class format: some classes may require physical presence for exams, while others may use a combination of online teaching and another method, such as videos

Are You Ready for Online Learning ?

What Can Expect from My Online Classes?

First of all, expect to feel lost! This is perfectly normal in a new online environment, especially if you are new to the Internet. Don't panic. Slow down and see if you can get your bearings. Look for announcements on your course homepage that might give you information about how to proceed.

If you can't figure out what you are supposed to do or where you are supposed to be in cyberspace, don't hesitate to send an email or call your instructor for help.

Second, expect to work as hard, or even harder, than in traditional face-to-face classes. Like more traditional classes, online classes can provide valuable learning experiences, but only if you put in the time to fully participate and succeed. Because online classes are student-centered, a lot depends on your participation.

You will need to spend an average of 10 to 15 hours a week on each online class. Remember: when you take a regular class, you usually spend 3 hours a week in class, and 6-9 hours a week outside of class on homework. All these hours are spent online in SSU classes.

Third, you can expect to make friends and have fun! Online classes are dynamic and challenging. While this is serious education and not all fun and games, online classes are engaging. Because everyone must post messages in an online class, you can get to know your teacher and classmates - sometimes even better than you do in a traditional classroom. To get the most from your online experience, participate frequently and meaningfully in the online community your SSU class makes possible.

How much do online courses cost?

The billing process for online education is very similar to the process for face-to-face courses. Tuition is billed per credit hour with additional fees as appropriate. Georgia residents will receive the in-state rate. All other students will receive the out-of-state rate.

Where can I find specific course details?

SSU Catalog is available online and provides in-depth program requirements and course information. For more detailed information, visit your academic program's website.

How do I achieve a successful online experience?

For an in-depth look at what factors lead to a successful online experience, view these Strategies for Online Learning Success.

Can I get course credit for prior learning experience?

In keeping with the mission of SSU, the university has adopted Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) standards to assist students in identifying and evaluating learning they have acquired outside the traditional college classroom for possible college credit.

Where do I have to be to access my online courses?

You can access your online course from any computer that has internet access.

Who sets the pace for the course, the student or the instructor?

Some online courses are "student-paced" and others are "instructor-paced."
A student-paced course allows the student to work at his/her own speed as long as he/she completes all requirements by the end of the semester. The instructor will set a course deadline that is either before or during the final exam week for the semester. Students that do not have good self-discipline may have a hard time in a student-paced course. You may want to set your own intermittent deadlines throughout the semester to ensure that the work gets done on time.
Instructor-paced online courses will have several deadlines or due dates spread throughout the semester. For example, book reviews might be due at the end of every other week, while online exams are taken on three scheduled dates during the semester, and a research project is due at the end of the fourteenth week of the semester.

Can I start an online course prior to the start of a regular semester?

Unless otherwise stated, you may not begin the course before the start of the semester. Keep in mind that the system will automatically enter you into the course database at the beginning of the term. It is impossible for you to access the online course prior to this automatic upload of students. The automatic upload typically occurs on the first day of the term, not prior to the start of the term. It is possible that online courses might have flexible start dates at some time in the future; however, that is not the case at this time.

Can I finish an online course later than the end of a regular semester?

Unless otherwise stated, you must complete all course requirements for an online course by the end of the semester. Even in a student-paced course, there is an ultimate deadline that must be met. Many instructors will place the final deadline several days before the end of the semester. The extra days are needed for grading purposes.

What happens if I fall behind or complete the course early?

It is acceptable to be a week ahead or behind. You must remember that participation is a very important aspect of your final evaluated grade for the course. Active participation requires you to post and respond to your instructor and fellow classmates' comments on the discussion forum. If you are too far behind, posting to an old topic will be revisiting something that the majority of your classmates might have discussed.

How do I communicate with my instructor?

You communicate with your instructor by email, discussion forums, or chat sessions. Students are highly encouraged to use these modes of communications, as faxed or mailed assignments are not accepted.

Is my online course an instructor-led course?

Like a traditional course, your online course has an instructor who will conduct the course by giving assignments, answering questions, leading discussions and assigning grades.